10 best podcasts of 2019 (so far)

25th March 2019

If you like podcasts, you probably already know your Serial from your My Dad Wrote a Porno and you might be looking for something else to listen non-stop for a week. Well, we’ve got you covered.

In no particular order, here’s a list of 10 of our favourite top-notch podcasting out there this year. Enjoy.

Who the hell is Hamish? (The Australian)

Hamish McLaren, born Hamish Watson, could be whoever the circumstances required him to be. An adoring boyfriend, a trustworthy father figure, a wounded victim of family trauma. What he actually was, though, is a serial conman who stole more than $7m from a number of victims he duped and manipulated for years.

This podcast by the Australian newspaper, hosted by Greg Bearup, uncovers how Watson managed to trick victims into giving him money, promising he was investing it for them and would turn it into double the amount, as well as escaping the authorities of four different countries for decades.

Episode recommendation: The Gatsby of the Great Lakes and The Intern

His pyramid scheme is described through the victims’ own testimonies. He had no legitimate reputation to rely on as a financial expert, so he was only able to find “investors” through other victims.

His psychology and behaviour pattern are explored in depth, especially when it comes to his relationships with the victims, whom he befriended then played for his own gain.

The whole investigation is not covered in the podcast. To find out about additional material, the Australian requires a monthly subscription. 

Today in Focus (The Guardian)

We’re bombarded by millions of news stories every day. Even if you’re trying to pay attention to what’s going on, you may find yourself with not enough time to dig a little deeper. Today in Focus is the Guardian’s brand new current affairs podcast, hosted by Anushka Asthana. It’s a daily, 30 minutes-per-episode podcast that aims to offer a broader, more insightful analysis of the biggest stories in the news, in the UK and around the world. Today in Focus is extremely factual in its storytelling but explores all issues with a very clearly opinionated stance, in pure Guardian style.

Episode recommendation: How dangerous is Jair Bolsonaro?

In this episode, the Guardian’s Latin American correspondent Tom Phillips describes his first meeting with the man that’s now the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro. He mentions asking him about his plans to run the country and describes his answer as 50% intimidating and 50% bonkers. Bolsonaro apparently responded by attacking him on his status as a Guardian journalist in what Phillips thought was a pretty nonsensical rant. Back then, he didn’t think he was talking to the next president of Brazil. But now we all know how the elections went down.

Drunk Women Solving Crime

Drunk Women Solving Crime is one of the top comedy podcasts in the UK and one of my new personal favourites.

Every week, writers/comedians Hannah George, Taylor Glenn and Catie Wilkins are joined by a guest to talk true-crime and get smashed in the process. Listeners who have been victims of crime are invited to give their contribution by sharing their stories, in order for the hosts to seek justice for them. Eye for an eye.

Needless to say, the hosts get funnier and funnier as each episode goes by. Can’t really put my finger on why. Also, the opening music is amazingly weird.

Episode recommendation: Uma Nayer, A Soap Opera and The Uninvited Wedding Guests

Before the gang goes on to solve twisted manslaughter cases, the guests are always asked if they’ve ever been victims of a crime and, if so, to share their experience with the three heroines.

The absolute worst occurrence and best story was writer and director Uma Nayer’s. As a podcast host herself, she knew exactly how to tell the tale of when she was robbed at her own wedding.

Here’s A Crazy Story (The Overtake)

Here’s A Crazy Story is definitely the best podcast out there. OK, I might be a little biased, as the producer. But honestly, it’s great.

The Overtake’s podcast tells crazy true stories every week and is hosted by our very own Robyn Vinter, Abigail Fenton and Rik Worth. Sometimes the stories are fun and lighthearted, sometimes we get into the more serious stuff. But there’s one guarantee. They’re all crazy. I mean the stories, not the hosts. There’s no long-running theme — you can start in the middle.

Episode recommendation: Shawna Womanchester

One of our latest episodes featured an awesome and absolutely insane vampire hunting story. Leading the search for the supernatural being was the president of the British Occult Society. Which he created, and made himself the president of. Oh, and he claims to be a bishop as well. Well, his name is Sèan Manchester and he doesn’t like bad press coverage. We haven’t received one of the famous offensive oil paintings he usually sends to his enemies, though. As of yet.

Sodajerker on Songwriting

If you’re a music fan, you’d probably love to know what’s the story behind your favourite tunes. How they came to life, when and where. Sodajerker on Songwriting might be the best podcast to find out.

Sodajerker is a songwriting duo formed by Simon Barber and Brian O’Connor in Liverpool. Their podcast is mostly about breaking down the actual process of songwriting, which might sound a bit off-putting for people who don’t write music. But it’s not. Many of the guests don’t even go into detail on the technicalities, but rather describe the personal process that guides writing a song. What their inspiration was, if they start with a melody in mind or they start from lyrics, if the song is autobiographical or not.

Episode recommendation: Paul McCartney

Simon Barber and Brian O’Connor lived many people’s personal dream: interviewing Sir Paul McCartney on his songwriting process and the making of Egypt Station, his latest solo album. It’s incredibly fascinating to listen to a living music legend describing how his mind works when putting songs together.

Also, they recorded the episode in his dressing room while he was on tour. I mean, couldn’t ask for more.

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness

Season 3 of Queer Eye has just been released, but Jonathan Van Ness has proved himself to be much more than just his bubbly tv personality and his awesome grooming abilities. In his fortnightly podcast, Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness, our beloved JVN interviews experts on a diverse range of issues, from geopolitics to figure skating. With his usual sassy attitude.

Episode recommendation: What’s the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims & why they don’t love each other and What’s going on in the Middle East right now? With Dr James Gelvin

The very first episode explores the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims with the help of Dr James Gelvin, Middle East History professor at UCLA. The most refreshing thing about Jonathan’s approach is his openness to learn about topics he might not know much about. Dr Gelvin returns on the podcast in another brilliant episode about the current Middle East situation. Geopolitics is an extremely difficult issue to tackle, but JVN knows how to ask the right questions to make it more accessible to understand. For himself first, and for the listeners too.

The Hurricane Tapes (BBC World Service)

The Hurricane Tapes is a podcast produced by The BBC World Service and hosted by Steve Crossman. It tells the story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a middleweight boxer who was convicted of murder in 1967 and 1976 and then released after 19 years in jail.

The podcast explores the ins and outs of the triple murder committed at Lafayette Bar and Grill in New Jersey in 1966, as well as Rubin Carter’s personal history, background and career.

The Hurricane Tapes’ narrative construction is very powerful. Carter died in 2014, but he’s still able to tell his side of the story thanks to 40 hours of original tape recording retrieved from one of his old friends, who didn’t even realise they existed.

Episode recommendation: Bullets, Bello and Bradley

Hurricane’s murder trial(s) had an enormous impact on the news, in a time of such racial tensions in the United States. The prosecution had no physical evidence or murder weapon to link the defendants to the homicide, but was still able to build their case on their star witnesses, and convict Rubin Carter and John Artis. Twice.

The Tip Off

The Tip Off, hosted by Maeve McClenaghan, guides the listener through the process of some of the biggest investigative journalism stories of recent years. It’s niche at times but the stories are so good that there’s no need to be a journalism geek to fall in love with the podcast. As a plus, the editing and sound quality are absolutely superb.

Episode recommendation: Mother

Sometimes a story can present itself in an unexpected way. In an absolutely brilliant episode, director Lorna Tucker describes the birthing process of her feature film, Amà (2018). Tucker says she decided to shoot a documentary about a forced sterilisation campaign amongst Native American women after reading the book Conquest by Andrea Smith. With no background in journalism whatsoever or any education, really, she found herself chasing a story on the other side of the planet, because she knew she needed to tell it, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Tip Off is produced in association with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, with funding from the Charities Aid Foundation.

RuPaul: What’s The Tee with Michelle Visage

Brought to you by the fabulous hosts of RuPaul’S Drag Race, What’s The Tee is a lighthearted, hilarious and easy-listening podcast. It features many of the queens that have been a part of the show, as well as all kinds of tv personalities, actors and singers.

Episode recommendation: Leah Remini Returns

In almost 200 episodes, RuPaul, Michelle Visage and a guest (or guests), talk pop culture, show business, politics, sometimes even religion. That’s the case of one of the two episodes featuring Leah Remini, actress and ex-Scientologist. She is now the producer of a very successful documentary series, Scientology and The Aftermath. Remini left the church in 2013 and has since then been very vocal about the wrongdoing and abuse going on inside the organisation, making fighting for the victims her mission.

The Racist Sandwich Podcast

Racist Sandwich is a fortnightly podcast that explores the relationship between food, race and gender. The reason behind the name is hilarious, but I’m not going to give it away here. You’ll have to listen to episode one.

In their podcast, chef Soleil Ho and journalist Zahir Janmohamed discuss the importance of food as a catalyst for social life in different cultures. There’s a link between what we eat and what it represents in terms of us as a society. Food can be political, even though we might not be used to seeing it that way.

Episode recommendation: And you tried to change, didn’t you? (w/ Salimatu Amabebe)

When it comes to body image, the “Western standard” is predominantly what’s seen as desirable, especially for women. Not being able to fit a certain standard can lead to extreme consequences in some cases. Racist Sandwich hosts spoke to Salimatu Amabebe, Nigerian-American chef and owner of a vegan/gluten-free catering company, about her experience with food and the perception of her body.

Salimatu grew up in a small town in Maine where she didn’t really know many people that looked like her. This episode tackles the issues of body racialisation and disordered eating with extreme sensitivity and insight.

25th March 2019